Ill. Senate calls on Congress to overturn Citizens United ruling

By Jessica M. Karmasek | May 15, 2013

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Legal Newsline) -- The Illinois Senate on Tuesday approved a joint resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed unrestricted campaign spending by corporations.

The state Senate voted 37-9 in favor of Senate Joint Resolution 27. The measure now moves to the House of Representatives.

Illinois is one step closer to becoming the 14th state to back such a constitutional amendment.

West Virginia and Maine most recently rejected the 2010 ruling.

Other states that have called for an amendment to overturn the decision include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont, as has Washington, D.C.

Nearly 500 local municipalities also have called for a constitutional amendment, including 13 cities in Illinois.

The nation's high court held in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporate funding of independent political broadcasts in candidate elections cannot be limited because of the First Amendment.

The court's ruling in favor of Citizens United stemmed from a dispute over whether the non-profit corporation could air a film critical of current U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"Momentum against the unpopular ruling is growing rapidly," said Aquene Freechild, senior organizer with Public Citizen's Democracy Is For People campaign.

Public Citizen, along with Common Cause Illinois, consumer group Illinois PIRG, MoveOn and Move to Amend, is leading the state's campaign to overturn Citizens United.

SJR 27 is sponsored by state Sens. Heather Steans, a Democrat; Karen McConnaughay, a Republican; and Pamela Althoff, also a Republican.

The resolution states that the legislators "respectfully, but emphatically disagree with the... decisions of the United States Supreme Court and call upon the United States Congress to propose and send to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. FEC, Speech Now.org v. FEC, Buckley v. Valeo and other related cases that allow for unlimited election spending."

Freechild noted the bipartisan support for the resolution, saying it echoes the "strong support" shown in polls by Republicans, Democrats and independents for an amendment overturning the decision.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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